The Purge: Election Year

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

I’m currently re-watching The Purge: Election Year (2016), third installment in the B-movie sci-fi/horror franchise The Purge, with a view to preparing myself for latest installment, viz. The First Purge (2018), a prequel to the first film, The Purge (2013).

I recently watched the second installment, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), which is superior to the first film in terms of its pacing, delivery, plotting and, from a specifically Counter-Racist perspective, exploration of White Supremacist (Racist) themes.

In what follows, I should like to offer a few observations about the relationship between the second and third installments in the franchise with respect to their exploration of ‘race matters’. In this connection, I should like to begin by sharing some screenshots from The Purge: Election Year:

The Purge - Election Year - 2.JPG

The Purge - Election Year - 3

The latter two stills depict the identity of those employed by the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) to effect ‘low-level’, ‘on-the-ground’ operations as a proxy of government – in this particular instance, capture of a white female senator who wishes to end ‘the purge’. Insofar as the NFFA constitute White Supremacist (Racist) government in its more refined/sophisticated/covert form, the above points to a more crude/unrefined/overt manifestation of the same system.

Purge and Purify.JPG

The above scene depicts a meeting of the NFFA and its supporters in a church wherein a white member of the clergy calls upon members of the congregation to ‘purge and purify’, a cleansing of the sin of potential violence effected through its actualization. What interests me here is the religio-racial appeal to ‘purity’ and/as whiteness.

Having completed my viewing of the film, I consider it a much weaker installment in the franchise vis-a-vis its treatment of race/racism (White Supremacy) than The Purge: Anarchy  which I have posted about previously:

That said, I look forward to The First Purge given that this will be the first installment in the franchise not directed by its writer, James DeMonaco, but by black male director Gerald McMurray whose other work includes the excellent Fruitvale Station (2013).

Interested readers might want to check out the following third-party piece exploring the purge timeline:

The Purge Movie Timeline Explained: 2014 – 2040


Islamic Counter-Racist Thought Food #72

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider the following statement as an example of how identity/universality and difference/individuality are conjoined ‘flip-sides’ within the logic of Racism (White Supremacy):

The discourse of universalism functions similarly to the discourse of individualism
but instead of declaring that we all need to see each other as individuals
(everyone is different), the person declares that we all need to see each other as
human beings (everyone is the same).

Extract taken from DiAngelo, R. (2011) White Fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3(3): 54-70.


Heidegger and The Islamicate

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.


(Left-to-right: Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Professor Zenep Direk and Dr Nader Shokrollahi)

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), presented a paper entitled “Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals” at the Heidegger in the Islamicate World international conference which took place at the University of Bern in Switzerland on 2-4 November 2016. A revised version of this paper is to be included as a contribution for a forthcoming book in the New Heidegger Series.

Here is the conference abstract:

Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals

This talk problematizes the question concerning ‘Heidegger in the Islamicate’ as Orientalist and Eurocentric on the ground of two arguments:

The first, transversal, argument, by unsettling the idea that Islamicate space is coterminous with geography and the conception of the Islamicate as necessarily situated beyond Europe, addresses the engagement with Heideggerian thought on the part of Muslim thinkers in the West. In this context, the talk will examine the importance of Heideggerian thought in the Murabitun movement as an example of how European Muslims, in their diagnosis of a perceived malaise in the European civilizational project, expose the need to go beyond Heidegger’s thought in order to engage with the resources of the Islamicate tradition.

The second, reversal, argument considers the possibility of an Islamicate genealogy for Heideggerian thought in accordance with an understanding of genealogies as cross-civilizational and non-reductive. In this context, the paper draws on Caputo, Sikka and others to establish Heidegger’s indebtedness to mystical thought, especially Meister
Eckhart, and on Kakaie’s work highlighting the influence of Ibn Sīnā on Meister Eckhart.


The End-Game Failure of Westphalia?

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.


An extremely important essay written by white male Jamie Bartlett, director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos based in London.

Here’s a brief extract:

Try to imagine a world without countries – you can’t. Our sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, are bound up in them.

Which is all rather odd, since they’re not really that old.

Here is a link to the essay which is hosted by Aeon.


A Sparrow Alighted, A Soul in Flight

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

It is now five years since my late father, (Al-Hajj Al-Haafidh) Syed Shahid Ali, passed away. (In this connection, interested readers might want to read the tribute I wrote to him on Friday 24 May 2013.)

Similarly to what I stated in a post commemorating my reflections last year entitled “The Lark’s Ascending and The Soul’s Ascension“, much has happened in the intervening period, some of it good and some of it not so good, but all of it as viewed from my limited human perspective.

In what follows, I want to reflect briefly on some of the apparent good that has taken place since the post from the previous year. Once again, I have been blessed by God/Allah with a number of opportunities to further develop and apply my (Islamic) decolonial thinking in various settings.

  1. I delivered a talk entitled “The (Un)bearable Whiteness of Informationalist Religion” at the OURS2018: Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective: Publics and Performances conference which was held at The Open University from 19-21 February 2018, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes, UK. The abstract is here.
  2. I have been invited to be guest editor for a special issue of ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies dedicated to exploring “The Decolonial Question Concerning Technology.”
  3. I presented a paper entitled ‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Risk’: The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence at the AI and Apocalypse conference organized by the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) which took place in 5-6 April 2018 at the Panacea Gardens in Bedford, UK. I have subsequently been invited to submit this paper for publication in a special issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, the oldest and pre-eminent journal in this field.
  4. I was invited to become the convenor of the newly formed Critical Information Studies (CIS) research group based in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University, UK in April 2018.
  5. I have a chapter entitled “Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals” in the forthcoming book Heidegger in the Islamicate World edited by Kata Moser and Urs Goesken and published by Rowman & Littlefield.
  6. I have a chapter entitled “Prolegomenon to the Decolonization of Internet Governance” in the forthcoming book Internet Governance in the Global South edited by Daniel Oppermann and published by the University of São Paulo.
  7. I presented a paper in the session on ‘Critical and Political Issues’ at Philosophical Hermeneutics in the Islamicate Context, an International Conference held at Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium May 9–11 2018. The abstract is here.
  8. I presented a paper in the panel on ‘Colonising and Decolonising Data’ at Data Justice 2018, an international conference hosted by the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University May 21-22 2018. The abstract is here.

Truly a huge barakah from The Most High.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had an opportunity to visit the grave of my father at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery this year due to work commitments but will visit soon, insha’Allah.

I should like to end this post with the following piece of music which I dscovered this past year and which made me think of my father when I recently listened to it (the composer himself passed away earlier this year):


Decolonizing ‘Datafication’ Discourse

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Photo of Me

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), presented a paper in the panel on ‘Colonising and Decolonising Data’ at Data Justice 2018, an international conference hosted by the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University May 21-22 2018.

Here is the title and abstract:

Decolonizing ‘Datafication’ Discourse

It has been claimed that the ‘datafication’ of society has resulted in the emergence of a new set of power dynamics requiring investigation and critique. While conceding that the paradigm of ‘Big Data’, coupled with other developments such as the Internet of Things, data mining and deep learning, indeed gives rise to changed sociotechnical formations, building on arguments made in connection with the proposal for a ‘decolonial computing’ (Ali 2014, 2016, 2017), I suggest that this claim needs to be interrogated with a view to exploring the continuity through change of power relationships between different groups in the world system. Adopting a critical race theoretical and decolonial perspective, I want to draw attention to certain ‘silences’ / ‘erasures’ in discourses associated with the ‘critical’ literature on algorithm/data studies which tend to be framed, tacitly or explicitly, against the backdrop of a world system understood as capitalist / neoliberal, thereby obscuring its origins in racialized colonialism, a long durée project that continues into the post-colonial era through the persistence of ‘coloniality’ – that is, structuring colonial logics. Notwithstanding a certain rhetorical overkill of the ‘datafication’ discourse by its proponents – a form of deception that arguably affords rhetorical power to hegemonic coloniality – such developments can – and do – contribute to maintaining, expanding and refining modern/colonial domination. For this reason, I argue for the need to consider both the rhetoric and the techno-scientific socio-material reality and affordances of ‘Big Data’ and associated developments engaged by both its proponents and critics alike.

For example, there has been a tendency within critical data/algorithm studies to focus on methods obscuring issues of ‘positionality’ – that is, racialized location within the world system – and resulting in such discourses being framed in tacit Eurocentric-universalist terms. For this reason, such discourses must be complemented with a decolonial ‘meta-critique’ disclosing the abstract, homogenizing biases informing such narratives. Similar problems arise in connection with discourses involving ideas such as the ‘Big Data divide’, ‘data colonialism’ and ‘surveillance capitalism’, the latter referring to an ‘emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere’. In this connection, I want to suggest that if the analytic frame is shifted from capitalism to racialized-coloniality, it is more useful to think about such developments in terms of ‘surveillance colonialism’ and an emergent logic of domination in the networked sphere, such logic standing in a (re-)productive relation vis-à-vis historically prior yet persistent logics of coloniality and affecting differently-marked bodies located in different geo-political locations differently. I further maintain that a shift in frame from ‘surveillance capitalism’ to ‘surveillance colonialism’ provides the means by which to decolonially-interrogate developments associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and their mobilization in ICT4D discourses; on this view, the IoT needs to be understood in terms of a refinement of the logics of domination, an ‘iterative’ shift away from overtly political strategies of control embedded in ‘participatory’ ‘aid’ projects, to one involving domination through the dissemination and embedding of standards and closed-source platforms along with what might be described as ‘data settler colonialism’ via non-human technological proxy, viz. sensor devices as ‘digital settlers’ originating in ‘the core’ of the modern/colonial world system and embedded in ‘the periphery’ – a case of ‘from boots on the ground to bits in the ground’.

Finally, I want to argue for the need to interrogate how justice is framed in calls for ‘data justice’, and the nature of the relationship, if any, between such calls and related calls for compensation / reparations vis-à-vis the ongoing ‘legacy effects’ of European colonialism.


Ali, S.M. (2017) Decolonizing Information Narratives: Entangled Apocalyptics, Algorithmic Racism and the Myths of History. DTMD 2017: 6th International Conference. In: IS4IS Summit Gothenburg 2017 – Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society, 12-16 June, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ali, S.M. (2016) A Brief Introduction to Decolonial Computing. XRDS, Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students – Cultures of Computing 22(4): 16-21.

Ali, S.M. (2014) Towards a Decolonial Computing. In Ambiguous Technologies: Philosophical issues, Practical Solutions, Human Nature: Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Computer Ethics –Philosophical Enquiry (CEPE 2013). Edited by Elizabeth A. Buchanan, Paul B, de Laat, Herman T. Tavani and Jenny Klucarich. Portugal: International Society of Ethics and Information Technology, pp.28-35.